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Artificial Life Created

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Artificial Life Created

Postby mith » Wed Nov 21, 2007 6:46 am

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Postby woolleyy » Wed Nov 21, 2007 1:26 pm

No way! It's the beginning of a whole new world! Can you imagine what sort of crazy organisms we can construct? I'm thoroughly impressed by the minimal chromosome constructed by Venter, and look forward to seeing what new developments come out of this groundbreaking work.

As an aside, there's a very interesting paper from George Church about constructing a cell from small molecules alone (purified proteins), could potentially have even bigger impact if it was actually acheived, although it looks like more than a decade to acheive at least.

Forster et. al. (2006) Towards Synthesis of a Minimal Cell. Molecular Systems Biology.
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Postby mith » Wed Nov 21, 2007 5:05 pm

Purely proteins?
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Postby alextemplet » Wed Nov 21, 2007 5:32 pm

Maybe I'm paraniod but I have a feeling that artificial lifeforms are unlikely to do less good than harm. Our environment is already suffering enough because of man's inanimate creations. I do not see how synthetic organisms can do anything to make the problem better.
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Postby mith » Wed Nov 21, 2007 6:29 pm

the artificial life form is the beginnings of synthetic biology. You can see this organism as being the chassis of a car, then you can add engines which run on whatever fuel you have in mind, add tools to do tasks and add chemical signalling networks to control them.
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Postby jere » Wed Nov 21, 2007 6:37 pm

The team was able to construct an artificial chromosome of 381 genes and the DNA sequence they have pieced together is based upon the bacterium Mycoplasma genitalium (pictured). The original bacterium had a fifth of its DNA removed and was able to live successfully with the synthetic chromosome in place.

The man-made organism, dubbed Mycoplasma laboratorium, still relied upon the intracellular machinery already present to carry out tasks such as replication and metabolism, and in this respect the entity is not an entirely new life form.


Well, the team started with a preexisting organism, so I'm less impressed after reading about that. It's certainly amazing, but perhaps someone will have to explain the importance of this to me.
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Postby alextemplet » Wed Nov 21, 2007 7:09 pm

I understand your point, Mith, but I don't think it's quite the same. A car can do nothing unless a human controls it; an organism controls itself, and thus has much more potential to become dangerous. I honestly think this is playing with fire, dangerously toying with something that we do not understand.
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Postby mith » Wed Nov 21, 2007 7:21 pm

You can program an array of failsafes into the micro-organism such as making it dependent on a certain chemical to survive or having a signalling network that can trigger apoptosis, but you're correct in that there will eventually be a mutation which may be problematic.
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Postby alextemplet » Wed Nov 21, 2007 7:24 pm

I hate to sound apocalyptic, but if you've ever read Jurassic Park, it's a good theoretical example of something that we think we can control suddenly becoming very dangerous. Life is the most powerful force this planet has ever known and I don't think it should be toyed with like this.
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Postby AstusAleator » Wed Nov 21, 2007 9:08 pm

This was my favorite remark below the article:

"History repeats itself.
This is exactly how Xenu and other alien overlords created humans. They just left us on earth while they went off to other planets way beyond our reach at the moment. Same thing will happen here. THe earth will be uninhabitable to people animals and then we'll create a new species that can thrive in the new earth environment and leave them behind as we go out in search of a habitable planet. You've been warned hominids."

I love it. Is that something scientologists believe? It sounds vaguely familiar...

Anyhow, I'm with alex on this. The prospect is rather scary... and amazing at the same time. Yes discovering the "new world" was great for 15th century explorers but oops they spread diseases that killed off a huge portion of the indigenous people. Yes discovering nuclear physics has enabled us to enter a new realm of scientific discovery but the people living in Nagasaki or Hiroshima at the time probably didn't appreciate it much.
The implications of being able to create artificial organisms are HUGE, as the article indicated, in both positive and negative directions. I guess I just feel that the possible negative may outweigh the possible positive.

Plus, you know the pharmaceuticals will just buy up the patents on the AOs and make us pay through the nose for whatever service they render.
What did the parasitic Candiru fish say when it finally found a host? - - "Urethra!!"
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Postby alextemplet » Wed Nov 21, 2007 10:36 pm

I think that is a scientologist myth, the whole thing about Xenu.

I agree, Astus. Science should never be studied simply for its own sake, but with an eye towards the ethical good of the entire human population. You also raise a good point about pharmaceutical companies; I didn't even begin to think about how they might screw everything up!
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Postby mith » Wed Nov 21, 2007 11:28 pm

ALL HAIL XENU!!!
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